It’s already Sunday but it feels like the weekend has stretched for a week, in the nicest way. The first few truly sunny days of summer are such a novelty still—each one has a delicious newness to it, which gives time an elasticity such that a single weekend feels like a week-long vacation. All the things that become routine once summer really sets in are still fresh. I haven’t gone swimming every morning yet, or had dozens of cold brew iced coffees, or gotten multiple sunburns from too many hours at the beach.
So I am rediscovering each little thing that I like about summertime, savoring each as I go. (Side note: This is what I love so much about seasons—four times a year, there’s an automatic refresh that imbues even the most daily, ordinary things with a fresh glow. When else do you suddenly get weak in the knees at the scent of freshly sharpened pencils or fallen leaves or giddy at the sight of snowy roads and the taste of peppermint hot chocolate?)
I drove out east on Friday night, leaving the city around 7:30, just as the sun was sinking, dipping low behind the river, soaking the city in that particular amber-colored glow that is so specific to warm summer evenings. The green of the trees in the park looks extra vivid right around this time, and the air is soft. I sat in traffic in Queens, feeling the heat rise off the asphalt and listening to the bump-bump-bump of rap music from the sidewalk. The honking of horns as cars in the opposite direction wait to cross the George Washington Bridge.
The knot of traffic loosens slowly as I pull onto the Long Island Expressway and I drive faster and faster as dusk settles and night falls. I listen to this song on repeat. I get to Greenport just before 10 PM, flip the lights on downstairs long enough to drop my bags and grab a cold seltzer water, then crawl into bed. The sheets are cool and inviting—the street outside is hushed and dark.
The sun rises around 5:30 AM. Light streams in the big picture windows that line two sides of the bedroom, and I wake up slowly once the sunshine floods the room in earnest, not needing an alarm. I drive the 4 miles to the next town east to take my favorite workout class—the 8:30 AM Saturday morning circuit class, which is a quick and dirty 45-minute-long boot camp-style workout. It’s always different and always hard, and this morning I celebrate the tiny—but huge to me—success of completing a box jump after 10 failed attempts (involving a scraped and bruised shin; battle wound!).
Sweaty and shaky with exertion, I drive a half mile to the beach. I forgo the main entrance and park instead at the secret back lot, where a worn dirt path leads down through a canopy of trees to the wide expanse of sand.
The sun is bright and warm enough to sit and sunbathe a little. I lift my face up and close my eyes for ten minutes, then glance around at the empty beach. Seems safe, so I strip down to my sports bra and sprint into the frigid water, dunking my head and gasping for breath when the cold hits my chest. I run back onto the sand, wrap myself in a towel, and pull on a dry sweatshirt and shorts.
This is the best morning feeling—a good sweaty workout, a cold swim, dry clothes. Next up, coffee: an oat milk cappuccino from the best coffee spot in town, then a trip to the little tiny Saturdays-only used book cottage. For $8.25 I buy: 9 magazines, a copy of the massive Gourmet Today cookbook, and four novels.
Then home for a shower, a walk into town for soft scrambled eggs with mushrooms and asparagus and toast, and a trip to the hardware store because who doesn’t love a Saturday trip to the hardware store? (Um, if you answered no, you are not going to the right hardware store! The right one should feel like a trip to Mayberry and should smell like paint cans and new garden hoses and America. It will be full of helpful teenage boys with freshly-scrubbed, eager faces who like to talk about lawn mowers and the relative merit of duct tape versus painters’ tape.)
Whew! That’s a lot already, and the weekend has barely gotten started. Still ahead: a brief stop at a nearby winery, listening to live music outside on the lawn, sipping a sparkling Pinot blanc and eating Manchego and Carrs water crackers. There’s still an hour to spend sitting in the backyard, reading a new book and investigating the garden’s progress and eating freshly picked baby French radishes.
And then there’s Sunday (back in the city already): a morning hot yoga class, a long shower, a coffee sipped on the stoop in the sun. There’s an herb omelette oozing with melted Gruyere, a pile of leafy greens dressed in a bright vinaigrette on the side. And then, still ahead, there are pastries to be had!
After the omelette, I walk over to the edge of Central Park to meet a friend. We hop on the subway and head downtown to Soho, getting off at Spring Street and joining the lines outside Cafe Altro Paradiso for their third annual bake sale benefitting Planned Parenthood.
There are hundreds of people here, and the event is amazing. I immediately run into three people I know—it seems everyone in New York is here for this. And every baker is here. They’ve all brought their best and most delicious thing—whatever they’re known for. Ovenly has their salted chocolate chip cookies and She Wolf is selling sandwiches of Valley Shepherd Creamery cheese on a chewy sourdough ficelle. Pie queen Erin McDowell has boxes of pie popcorn (I’ll just let that sink in for a second—popcorn tossed with little round bites of flaky pie crust). Briana from Portland’s Tandem Bakery drove all the way from Maine to sell her corn and sumac pound cake and red rife, hazelnut, and rhubarb cakes. There are corn cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar and jam from Sqirl in LA and pastries from Philadelphia’s Zahav and ice cream from Morgenstern’s. There are doughnuts from Il Buco and ginger earl gray rice crispy treats from Meme’s Diner and gelato from King restaurant and Paris-Brest from Le Coucou.
There is….a lot of deliciousness. And also, importantly, there is a lot of money being donated and a lot of people sipping Champagne cocktails and licking chocolate off their fingers and laughing in the sunshine, and it’s really nice all around.
Now, at this particular bake sale I was not baking (for once), but participating (which is important in life).
But it got me thinking about what I would have baked—if I had to come up with my specialty. It should be something that would please a wide audience, but it should also be memorable and a little bit unusual. It should be portable and pretty easy to eat without melting or causing a huge mess.
My first thought is BISCUITS, because have you met me? But, then I thought, what do the majority of people really like and flip over? Chocolate, that’s what. Specifically, chocolate cake.
But since we’re talking about making this memorable, here’s what we’d do: ADD BOOZE. (Wait, okay, maybe that would have that opposite effect and get you drunk and remembering nothing, as this cake has an extremely generous amount of whiskey. Kidding, you won’t get tipsy off of this cake, but be forewarned that it is definitely boozy! If you don’t drink, just swap hot coffee in for the whiskey. But…um…don’t. Because it’s so good as it’s written.)
The whiskey glaze definitely takes this cake to another, boozier, level. It’s not included in Melissa Clark’s original recipe but I added it because I was being EXTRA. Go with it, okay?
If you want, you can just skip the glaze and dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar. Or, you could just brush a simple glaze of confectioners’ sugar thinned with some cream or milk or hot water.
Chocolate Whiskey Cake
Adapted from Melissa Clark for the NYT
Makes one 10-cup Bundt cake
For the cake
5 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder or 2 tablespoons instant espresso granules
1 cup boiling water
1 cup whiskey
1 cup (2 sticks; 226g) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
For the glaze
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey
1 tablespoon hot water, plus more as needed
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Grease a 10-cup Bundt cake pan—be sure to grease it very thoroughly. You want to really get into all the nooks and crannies; I like to use a baking spray for this and go heavy on it.
In a microwave or over a double boiler, melt the unsweetened chocolate, stirring until smooth. Once melted, set it aside to cool slightly.
Add the cocoa powder and espresso powder (or instant espresso) to a glass 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to bring it up to the 1 cup mark, then stir until the powder dissolves. Add the 1 cup of whiskey, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the softened butter with the sugar until very creamy and fluffy.
Add vanilla, baking soda, and eggs—one at a time—beating well between each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.
Add the melted chocolate and mix well.
Add half of the of the whiskey/cocoa mixture and mix to combine, then add 1 cup of the flour and mix. Add the rest of the whiskey mixture, mix, then the final cup of flour. Mix until the batter just comes together—scraping down the bowl as you go—but don't overmix.
Pour the batter into your prepared Bundt pan (note: my cake rose quite a bit so you might want to bake it with a sheet pan under the cake pan in case you have some unexpected spillage).
Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes—start checking at 55 minutes and take it out when the top feels set and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, then carefully invert it and remove the pan. Hopefully it will not stick!
While the cake is still warm, mix together all the glaze ingredients—adding as much water as needed to make a thin, liquidy consistency—and brush/pour it over the warm cake.